Sen. Casey pushes Interior Department for help with 'rock snot'

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Sen. Bob Casey today asked the Department of the Interior to aid state officials in combating an invasive alga that threatens the state's $1.6 billion sport fishing industry.

Pennsylvania's Democratic senator sent a letter dated today to the secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, calling on him to quickly "provide immediate assistance" to state agencies' efforts to stop the spread of didymo, also commonly known as "rock snot," which was recently found in the Youghiogheny River in southwestern Pennsylvania, and has been spreading throughout the Delaware River since 2007.

Didymo is a brownish to cream-colored spongy alga that thrives in fast-moving, rocky rivers. It can coat a river bottom and crowd out native plant and animal species in the aquatic food chain needed to support a fishery.

"An invasive species like this could have a devastating impact on the state's economy," Mr. Casey said in the letter. "Pennsylvania's fishing industry is a driver of economic growth and a proven job creator for our state, which makes this new invasive species threat all the more urgent."

The invasive alga is transported from one river or creek to another by people when it attaches itself to boats, fishing equipment and wading shoes.

The risk of it spreading now is particularly high now, according to the senator, during the summer fishing, boating and swimming season.

In the last week, the state Fish and Boat Commission posted advisories at boat launches and takeout areas along the Youghiogheny River advising boaters and fishers of the problem and urging them to clean and disinfect their equipment to remove and kill the alga.

"Swift and effective action is critical to preventing didymo from overtaking Pennsylvania's waterways," Mr. Casey said in the letter. "The Interior Department must strengthen its efforts to address the threat of invasive species."

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Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983. First Published June 18, 2012 5:30 PM


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